On a roll, no.4

An incredibly slow moving series, highlighting, in reverse alphabetical order, some of the links on my blogroll.

Work of the Negative

This is a Marxist-Humanist blog by  Franklin Dmitryev, follower of Raya Dunayevskaya involved in the News and Letters posse. It mixes material on on-going anti-capitalist struggles from the US and the rest of the world, with theoretical material on Marxist-Humanism, by Dunayevkaya, Dmitriyev and others, for instance on eco-socialism.

Women’s History Month

This is a British feminist history resource, with a blog (mainly news about events) and resources (a TimelineLesson plansProfiles of women in historyUK women’s firsts10 things you didn’t know were invented by a womenWalks and
Links). There is stuff on women and activism including Labour women. Lots of useful stuff, and especially recommended for teachers.

Weimar: Art and Modernity

This blog is mainly huge numbers of fascinating images, mainly today with twentieth century German modernism. There is lots on Brecht, a little on Walter Benjamin, dada and on surrealism (from where I took the image below). And a very fine blogroll.

 Gregorio Prieto Muñoz, Lupanar de Pompeya, 1928

Voltairine de Cleyre: the Exquisite Rebel

Voltairine de Cleyre was an American anarchist born in 1866. She was close to the Wobblies but believed in an “anarchism without adjectives.” De Cleyre was based 1889 to 1910 in Philadelphia, where she lived among poor Jewish immigrants, and where sympathy for anarchist beliefs was common. There, she taught English and music, and she learned to speak and write in Yiddish. This nice-looking site has her biography, texts, links to lots of resources elsewhere, and (unlike most of the pages below) is regularly updated.

Victor Serge net

This is a site about the great Russian/Belgian revolutionary Victor Serge. Although full of great material, it is not well put together, and hard to navigate. There is a list of Serge’s novels; reproductions of some of his wonderful but less well known poems, mainly written while he was in exile in Orenburg; biographical material; images, including paintings by his son Vlady; information on the Victor Serge Foundation in Montpelier. I think the site is a production of Richard Greeman, world’s foremost Serge scholar.

Vlady

And this is a site about Serge’s son Vlady, an artist, who died in 2005. Vlady was based in his adult life in Cuernavaca in Mexico, producing extraordinary muralsdrawings and and paintings. The site includes writings, biographical materials and art.

Varian Fry Foundation Project/Varian Fry Institute

Varian Fry was the man who saved the lives of Victor Serge and Vlady Kibalchich. With co-conspirators  Miriam Davenport and Mary Jayne Gold at the Villa Air-Bel near Marseilles, his Emergency Rescue Committee helped smuggle artists, dissidents and others out of Nazi-occupied Europe into Spain, Portugal and North Africa, and on to America and the Caribbean. The Varian Fry Foundation site tells his story, with  biographical notes by Annette Riley Fry, material on the recognition of his heroism, and links to lots of web resources. The Varian Fry Institute is a division of the Chambon Foundation in LA, which celebrates those who saved the lives of French Jews. The Institute is working on a documentary on Fry by Pierre Sauvage. The site has material on Fry’s American colleagues and on Sauvage’s other activities. The framework of this site is noble American righteous gentiles; I prefer the more political take of the Foundation. Neither do justice to Fry’s French colleagues, for which I recommend Rosemary Sullivan‘s Villa Air-Beli, which gives a prominent place to Serge and also to Andre Breton. Further reading: A Tribute to Varian Fry from Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project; online biography by Barry Gewen.

Back some time for the letter T.

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Tristes tropiques

Levi Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss has died, aged 101.

Lévi-Strauss fled Vichy France in 1940, having been dismissed from his job due to Vichy racial laws. The New School for Social Research in New York, a reconstituted version of the Frankfurt school set up to rescue German refugee intellectuals, found a job for him, and the Rockefeller Foundation had a programme to rescue European scientists and thinkers. He made his way to Marseilles, and set sail for freedom in March 1941.

Other passengers on the boat, the Captain Paul-Lemerle, were Victor Serge, Andre Breton and Anna Seghers. The three of them were among the anti-fascists rescued by the great Varian Fry, a story told in his colleague Mary Jayne Gold’s Crossroads Marseilles 1940 (1980, now out of print) and more recently Rosemary Sullivan’s Villa Air-Bel (2006 HarperCollins).

Seghers was a German Communist writer. She had fled Nazi Germany for France, and was active in the exiled German writers union, which met at the Cafe Mephisto on Boulevarde St-Germain. Seghers had slipped across the line from German-occupied France to Vichy France the same month that Walter Benjamin took his life after being turned back from Spain in his bid to get to New York.

She had played a major role in the Congress for the Defence of Culture, held in Paris in 1935. At the Congress, Henri Poulaille, a French anarchist writer and editor, Magdelana Pa, a French Trotskyist, and Gaetano Salvemini, an Italian socialist, raised the question of Victor Serge’s incarceration in the Soviet gulag. (Serge was exiled in Orenberg at that time, the subject of his book Midnight in the Century.) Seghers, disgracefully, said this was a distraction: “When a house is burning, you can’t stop to help someone with a splinter in their finger.” It is not recorded, as far as I know, what conversation they had on the Captain Paul-Lemerle.

The Captain Paul-Lemerle, which had been built in 1921, landed in Martinique and then in Puerto Rico. At the latter, Lévi-Strauss had document trouble, and the Americans almost stopped him from proceeding. The fortunage intervention of another anthropologist, Jacques Soustelle, who happened to be PR in the service of De Gaulle’s Free French, rescued him. Levi Strauss went on to New York, where he was known as Claude L. Strauss, to avoid confusion with the popular jeans. Once the war was over, he worked as cultural counsellor of the French Embassy in Washington, before moving back to France in 1948. The first, very short, version of his wonderful memoir, Tristes Tropiques, was published in Encounter, the CIA-sponsored journal of the anti-Stalinist left.

Serge’s journey was not straightforward. He went to

Mexico (on a visa granted by President Cardenas hiniself), via Martinique (where he was detained in a camp for a month), Ciudad Trujillo and Havana. He reached Mexico in September 1941, and was immediately the object of violent articles, threats (to his life) from local and refugee Stalinists. (Jean Riére)

Seghors also went on to Mexico. Her anti-fascist novel, The Seventh Cross, which she had written in France, was published in English in New York and in German in Mexico. It has been serialised by a Soviet journal, International Literature, but the serialisation abrubtly halted with the Hitler-Stalin pact, when anti-fascism was no longer a Stalinist cause. Her Transit Visa, published in 1944, was a fictionalised account of the escape from France of the anti-fascist intellectuals, and the complex choreography of accidedents, lucky breaks and dishonesties by which they were able to obtain visas – “The Battle of the Visas” was Serge’s phrase for this.

Breton spent time in Martinique, then went on to New York.  He returned to France in 1946, and was active in radical politics until his death.

Added: Pierre Bourdieu on Levi-Strauss.